Why a digital approach can help your business – and how to fund it

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Written by Stacey McIntosh , Editor-in-chief of Sage Advice UK

What does digital adoption look like at your business?

Perhaps your business hasn’t started taking a digital approach and you’re doing things manually, using the likes of paper and spreadsheets to get by.

Or maybe you’re implementing new tech and it’s working wonders for your productivity and output.

Perhaps you’re in the middle, working your way through digitalising your processes with goals of added efficiency and productivity, and increased revenue.

If you’re looking to start with a digital approach for your processes or are well on the way with doing so, the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) is likely to have both accelerated things (with accounting, finance and videoconferencing solutions playing key roles when requirements to work from home were first announced earlier in 2020) and slowed things down (with some businesses seeing their revenues flatline and moving budgets to stay afloat).

In this article, we look at why a digital approach can help your business, and how to get started.

We also focus tackling the funding challenge, covering advice on what you can try in order to finance the tech that can help your achieve the business growth you desire.


Accelerated use of tech – but financial challenges are in the way

recent report by Sage and research consultancy Capital Economics, called Investing For Recovery, shows that 73% of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have invested in technology since the pandemic started.

However, only 17% were planning to invest prior to coronavirus.

The accelerated use of technology has enabled these businesses to keep moving during the pandemic, and it shows businesses on the whole are keen to adopt tech solutions.

Additional points from the report on this are:

  • 57% of small businesses are now regularly using digital solutions to help manage finances and accounts, their workforce and people and prevent cyber-attacks
  • 71% say technology will increase their profitability.

But the challenge arises when trying to take the next step on the digital journey.

Finding the funds to adopt new tech is proving challenging, especially when revenues aren’t as high as they were (or projected to be).

In fact, two points from the report on this are:

  • 67% of SMEs want to invest more across all areas of technology
  • SMEs want to invest on average £10,000 more in technology.

While there is coronavirus government help, in the form of a series of grants and loans, many businesses feel this doesn’t go far enough.

According to the research, they would like tax incentives (37%) and digital vouchers (36%) to help them afford their digital objectives.

The infographic below highlights some key points of the report, and shows both how businesses are using their technology and the financial challenges they’re facing.


4 benefits of digitalising your processes

So what can you do now to get things moving when it comes to adopting new technology?

Firstly, here are four benefits of digitalising your processes (for those who haven’t and those who have but haven’t realised the benefits yet)…

1. Reduced time on admin

Business admin doesn’t have to take hours out of your day anymore.

By using business software to automate processes, for example, there are a number of things you can do, including:

  • Automating your data entry with accounting software, so when it comes to updating the books, it’s a breeze to complete.
  • Using payroll software to make sure your staff are paid correctly and on time, while navigating any compliance issues with confidence.
  • Taking pictures of receipts using your mobile phone, with the data going straight to your cloud accounting software, therefore updating your financial records with ease.
  • Using self-service tools within your cloud HR software that your employees can access, so they can put in holiday requests, update personal details and add performance data.

2. Increased productivity

With the time you’re saving on automating manual tasks, you and your team will be freed up to focus on things that make you more productive, such as:

  • Finding new customers and clients
  • Keeping your existing clientele happy
  • Testing and selling new products and services.

On the latter point, taking new products for example, you could use your accounting software to see which ones are selling the best and focus on those.

3. Increased revenue

With those new products and services you’re offering, you’ll be able to increase the revenue coming in to the business.

And as you’re spending less time (and money) on admin, there’ll be more time to dedicate to generating sales.

4. Better customer experience

Technology will allow you to improve how you meet the needs of your customers.

In light of coronavirus and the need for regular cleaning, some restaurants are turning to tech to improve their customer service.

Instead of handing out menus, which would need to be either thrown away or cleaned after each use, customers can simply scan a QR code using their mobile phone and the menu appears on their device.

Simple and effective.


3 tips to start or kickstart your digital adoption

So while the benefits of digitalising your processes are apparent, the financial challenge is still clearly one that needs to be tackled.

To help you, here are three tips worth trying.

1. Access grants

There are numerous government grants that are worth exploring. A range of government support has been offered in light of coronavirus that may be able to help your business.

It’s also worth reaching out to Growth Hubs, which are led by the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) – they might have local grants that you can access, which are relevant to technology and can support your bid to digitalise your business and processes.

2. Use cloud subscription software

When it comes to adopting technology for your business, you no longer need to invest a huge amount of money in one go.

Purchasing software on a subscription basis is a great way to access the technology you need.

And if you opt for cloud-based software, it means you’re not tied to your desktop computer – you can work wherever you are and whenever you need to.

Take cloud accounting software, for example. By paying on a monthly basis, your cheaper outlay will mean you have more funds in your budget to pay for equipment, resources, staff or whatever your outgoings are.

By using your software to make better decisions (spend less money on one type of product because it’s not selling well; spend more on top-selling items), not only will you be able to use your budget in the right places, you’ll generate more revenue and can dedicate more funds towards taking a digital approach with more of your processes.

3. Train yourself and your staff

To truly embrace digital adoption, you need to reach the stage where you can use your software and technology to its full potential.

In order to do this, training yourself and your staff is an important consideration.

There doesn’t always have to be a cost to this.

Depending on your technology or software provider, they may offer free training to help you get up to speed with your IT solutions.

This is a win-win: you use their products as intended to get the best result for your business, and you’re more likely to stick with that provider as you trust their offering and will be more likely to buy from them in the future).

There are also numerous courses covering digital skills that you and your team can take free of charge, including from the likes of Google (digital marketing) and Future Learn (social media).

If you find you need to put yourself or your team on paid training courses, perhaps create a new digital pot of funds (using some for digitalising more processes in the future) – that can come from the money saved due to making your business run more efficiently – and put some money towards a training budget.

Final thoughts

When it comes to taking a digital approach with your business, it pays to start now, if you haven’t already. And if you have, it might be worth thinking laterally to see how you can afford to keep moving on your digital journey.

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